Cherry Hill to bid on Woodcrest

The minimum bid at next month's auction of the Woodcrest Country Club is $6.5 million.
The minimum bid at next month's auction of the Woodcrest Country Club is $6.5 million. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 05, 2013

Cherry Hill intends to bid on the Woodcrest Country Club when the bankrupt golf course goes up for auction next month, township officials announced Wednesday.

Mayor Chuck Cahn has asked Camden County to contribute money for the bid, which will have to top $6.5 million under terms set this week by a bankruptcy court judge.

The township wants to ensure the 155-acre club — which entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings last year and didn’t open for the season — remains a golf course or is preserved as open space, Cahn said.

A Marlton real estate group already has entered into an agreement with a bankruptcy trustee to buy the property for $6.25 million.

Cherry Hill Land Associates L.L.C. hasn’t disclosed its plans for the club, although the group wouldn’t use it for golf, its lawyer said after a court hearing earlier this week.

The Union League of Philadelphia also plans to bid on the club, with the intention of keeping it a golf course, a league lawyer said this week.

Other potential bidders include investor and developer Bruce Toll, who has expressed interest in developing a medical campus, and Crestwood Property Group L.L.C., which previously offered $5.1 million for the club.

Crestwood’s principals are members of the Brown family, who are on the board of the club’s main creditor, Sun National Bank of Vineland, which is owed $11.8 million and could credit-bid.

If the Union League won the auction and continued to operate the property as a golf course, the township would be “very supportive,” Cahn said Wednesday, flanked by council members at a news conference outside the Municipal Building.

However, “we don’t want to leave anything for chance,” Cahn said. Township officials “do not, and will not, support any change in zoning from the property’s currently institutional designation,” he said.

Cahn did not address questions about how much Cherry Hill would be willing to pay or what money it could use, apart from saying the township has about $1 million in an open-space trust fund.

The county’s open-space and recreation trust fund, by contrast, has about $11 million, Freeholder Jeff Nash said.

The freeholders are working with Cahn and “will certainly explore the option” of contributing to a bid for Woodcrest, Nash said Wednesday.

Before the freeholders would commit any money, an appraisal would have to be conducted, Nash said. He said any contribution from the county would be “limited by the fair market value of the property” — assessed in 2013 at $5.43 million, according to records available through the county Board of Taxation website.

The minimum bid for the auction — including a breakup fee and expenses awarded to Cherry Hill Land Associates if it isn’t the winner — is more than $6.5 million.

Asked whether the county could contribute enough money for a winning bid, Nash said he “didn’t want to speculate what an appraiser will do.”

The county’s open-space committee, which prioritizes properties to buy, would also consider the issue and make a recommendation to freeholders, Nash said.

The Woodcrest property — at the corner of Evesham and Haddonfield-Berlin Roads — would likely be considered a priority given the density of the area and the little open space remaining, Nash said.

“There might not be another opportunity to purchase a property such as this,” he said.

Cahn and Nash said they would reach out to the state Green Acres Program, which gives municipalities grants to buy land for conservation and recreation purposes.

The program is out of money, having spent the $400 million voters approved in 2009, said Bob Considine, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The program is still accepting applications, and “we are hopeful that the program will continue as we look into possible future funding sources,” Considine said.

Golf course projects have qualified for Green Acres grants in the past, Considine said.

Neighbors of the Woodcrest course hope the land will remain undeveloped, said Robert Feltoon, who lives near the course in Voorhees and was involved in efforts to preserve the nearby Stafford Farm.

The Woodcrest property is “breathtaking,” said Feltoon, who said he had spoken to Cahn about preserving it and attended Wednesday’s news conference.

“The idea that somebody could bulldoze” the property for development “should be against God, or something,” Feltoon said. “It should never happen.”


Contact Maddie Hanna at 856-779-3232, mhanna@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @maddiehanna.

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